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Bob Lind, Published August 25 2013

Neighbors: Despite health struggles, West Fargo man keeps smiling

He felt sick, so Cody Marthaller saw a doctor, who sent him home with some antibiotics and, Cody says, “I went on my merry way.”

This was in September 2011. But it was just the beginning.

Since then, Cody has been through the hospital ropes time and time again because it was found he had cancer.

Neighbors is telling Cody’s story today, both to tell of the ordeals he’s been through, and because The Forum has featured him before, shortly after he was born, because he was in danger of being the victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

24-hour concern

From the time he was born in 1982 to Lori and Brent Marthaller, of West Fargo, Cody’s life was precarious, with all the earmarks of a SIDS baby; a child who can be put to bed with no illness, not even a cold, and suddenly dies.

It meant he had to be monitored night and day; his mother jumping to check him if he made any sound; quick trips to the hospital if he didn’t look quite right.

It was a rough time, but Cody survived.

And then, 30 years later, it was crisis time again.

Many treatments

Cody, now 31, tells of what he’s been through – telling it calmly, with an ever-present smile.

A month after that initial visit to the doctor in 2011, he was having more problems, so he went in again. Physicians thought it was only a small broken blood vessel and sent him home.

About a year later, Cody had back pain. Again, he went in. “This time they took X-rays,” he says, “and they found my entire lung was coated with cancer, I had a collapsed lung and I had more than 2.5 liters of fluid around my lungs. I was kind of a walking time bomb.”

He says the doctors were “kind of bewildered because the cancer I had is usually found in older people who smoked heavily.”

Cody, 30 at the time, had smoked, but not heavily, and he’d quit it entirely.

Doctors drained the fluid and put Cody on chemotherapy treatments: 18 of them.

His lungs were cleared of cancer. But to make sure everything was OK, he had 10 brain radiation and eight chest radiation treatments.

But he wasn’t OK. It was found he had cancer spots on his spine. That led to 10 radiation treatments on his lower back.

And he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Watching for spots

“One day I got up to go to the bathroom,” he says, “and I couldn’t move my legs. I thought it would clear up. But the next day it hadn’t, and an ambulance had to take me to the hospital.”

Sanford took four MRIs that showed Cody had developed two more cancer spots on his spine. So, it was back to radiation treatments: 14 this time.

Today, Cody has a walker with him in his West Fargo home but gets around fairly well without it, and he’s doing exercises to rebuild his legs.

He’s on steroids, but he’s gradually being weaned off them.

He had to have more rounds of chemo this summer. “The primary concern is that I might develop spots on my lungs, but they’re clear right now,” he says.

He works at home doing software support for Engage Point, Fargo.

He has a good appetite, but sometimes has trouble sleeping.

He says he could drive but figures it’s better if others take him around. Still, he plans to buy a car.

He’s engaged to Jordan Jost, of West Fargo, but they’ve not set a wedding date.

Prayers of the young

Cody’s parents, meanwhile, have divorced, and his mother, Lori, has married again, to Bob Seigel. They live in Moorhead.

“There are many people praying for Cody,” Lori says. They include Cody’s nephew and niece, Logan, 7, and Ella, 6, the children of Cody’s sister, Jessica, and her husband, Dean Heilman, of Harwood, N.D.

Lori says the family is “very thankful” that the chemo treatments Cody is receiving “are usually very good, and he has had minimal side effects.”

“I have to stay positive,” Cody says. “It’s just one day at a time. Whatever happens, happens. I’m a tough cookie. Whatever they throw at me, I’ll hope for the best.”

But he says the cancer diagnosis changed his perspective. “The things that used to bother me, now I wonder why?” he says; “Why did they bother me?”

Could the SIDS symptoms he had as a baby have anything to do with his cancer? He says the doctors say no.

In any event, Cody survived the SIDS fears, and he’s determined he’ll survive cancer.

He says it with that smile that never seems to go away.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors,

The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com.